King Abdullah of Jordan has declared that any attack against Iraq would be a grave mistake which would have serious repercussions in the whole of the Middle East. His comments come as Saddam Hussein invites the British to send a team of investigators to Iraq to substantiate claims by Tony Blair that the regime in Baghdad is harbouring weapons of mass destruction.
Amid growing speculation that the United States and the United Kingdom are planning a military attack to oust the Ba’ath regime from power in Baghdad, the Jordanian King sends a clear message as he arrives in London for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, before crossing the Atlantic to meet George Bush: “We don’t think this is a very good idea”. He claimed that it could open a “Pandora’s box” of reactions in the Middle East and pointed out that Arab opinion in general considers the Palestinian issue to be the more pressing one which needs immediate resolution.
King Abdullah’s words appear to carry the message that only when there is movement on the Palestinian issue will Arab opinion be won over on the question of Saddam Hussain. He also criticised George Bush’s Middle East speech, in which he called on the Palestinian people to choose a new and different leadership. King Abdullah said that the Palestinians might consider voting for Arafat just to spite the US administration, even those who would not normally have done so. “Arafat’s popularity goes up the moment you point an Israeli tank barrel at him or there is a statement out of Washington”.
With a divide inside the US administration apparently centring around Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in favour of attack and Secretary of State Colin Powell, against, it is reported that the Pentagon favours a cautious approach, since an open attack such as that during the Gulf War would involve new dangers, especially if Saddam Hussein feels that he will be brought down-
A British government spokesperson has claimed that “Nothing has been decided by the US administration as to how this issue is to be taken forward”, underlining the existence of a rift. King Abdullah chose his moment well, warning in the event of an attack on Iraq that “That really would destabilise American strategic interest even more in the Middle East”.
John ASHTEAD PRAVDA.Ru London United Kingdom